Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Did you know that a ruby, sapphire, emerald and aeroplanes are all made of the same thing?

Did you know that a ruby, sapphire, emerald and aeroplanes are all made of the same thing?

My first step into SOLE, was this lesson and I have never looked back since! I teach Design Technology and one of the main areas I find difficult to cover is material areas. The topic itself I am sure is interesting but I find it 'dry' and always ended up delivering it in the same way...talking at them and telling them about it. As with all SOLE lessons the question is key! I had to find something inspiring, interesting and something that was not too easy or too difficult. I struggled trying to come up with something and Sugata himself suggested this question! I thought to myself....really?? They will never get anything from that and I must admit myself I had to google it too!!! With doubt in the question (not Sugata, as I very much trusted he knew what he was doing :0) I went for it with fantastic results!
My lesson went from a chalk and talk lesson on material properties to absolute wonder! I myself learnt so much!!
The lesson format was as follows....I showed them a clip from TED Talks and Future Learning.

They were already aware of the work of Sugata from an assembly my Headteacher had done and this itself led to discussion on how it could be translated into a classroom in North East of England! I explained how lucky they were that I had decided to step back, as I thought they were ready to investigate the task themselves...I was not in the room at all (so to speak!) They were going to take charge!
It was explained to them that they were to work in groups of four and only one computer between them, they were welcome to move around the room when ever they chose to and even take/share information between the groups. Each group was given a large piece of paper, colour pens and told they needed to form a presentation of their findings to the rest of the group at the end of the 40mintues. Due to the number of pupils in the group I was left with two extra students, I thought on my feet....one was made the behaviour manager who would keep in check the other students (if needed) and the remaining student would be a scribe. This proved an excellent source of feedback during the presentations at the end as they were able to point out what was said and when.

So the 40 minute adventure began, it was interesting to see how each of groups tackled the task....some groups dived straight in and others sat back, planned and delegated roles. I was really surprised how they took to the challenge and working in a group of four not only scaffold learning, but added a healthy competition between groups. I explained it was good to share and indeed cheat at the start of the lesson. What I loved most about the lesson was seeing the children enjoy the subject I love, it is very rare that we allow ourselves time to sit back and watch learning happen. I felt proud to be a teacher that day (even though my role was as an observer) I knew the depth of learning and the enjoyment was a thrill to see! The presentations were fantastic...they came up with facts and information I had not even thought of and again made me think that at times my role as the teacher restricts their learning and most of all their curiosity. We do have a role of course as teachers but it is important to step back, observe and admire....just like Sugata's granny's!
Feedback from some of Year 8
Its interesting to see in the comments made by this student below. They didn't like 'not' being able to talk to me. I take this a huge positive as it confirms my belief that children rely far too much on the teacher and lack the confidence to see they can do it them self! As this feedback shows, she goes on to say 'we got loads done together' and that SOLE is a good way to research and learn.
I went on to use this lesson as a starting point for a bigger project on material areas, the information the class came up with just had to be extended further...therefore they designed the curriculum and they drove it forward!! We went on to use the channel 4 documentary Plane Crash as a starting point to look at how this information is key when designing and developing products in the future. Each group became a crash team investigator!
They then had to use the information gained from the SOLE lesson and apply it while investigating a plane crash! The follow on lesson its self was fantastic, the students even came up with models explaining how material areas should be developed to save lives in the future! Fantastic and all made possible by SOLE!                                                                                                          

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Can you kill a goat by staring at it? #SOLE

Can You Kill A Goat By Staring At It?

As a huge fan of Sugata Mitra and as someone who has now tried out SOLE with a number of classes I thought to myself I am going to give it a go with Year 12. My class, as lovely as they are, are just very quiet and rarely like working together as a group. The class has a number of students from different schools, so the mix in the group sometimes hindered learning and my enjoyment of the lesson.
I have a triple lesson on a Wednesday afternoon and as I introduced the topic of Complementary Therapy for their Unit 8 A/S.......I thought to myself, how can I make this lesson both interesting and encourage the group to bond and inspire independent learning...the answer SOLE!!
I started by showing them the excellent TED talks clip of Sugata....This was a perfect way of setting the scene.
I explained to the group the benefits of SOLE including...
  • Taking ownership of learning
  • Developing habits to be a lifelong learner
  • Develop stronger memory call
  • Increase motivation to learn
  • Have fun!!
TED SOLE Toolkit

The group was told they can work together in groups of four, they can choose their groups and as Sugata says...cheating (sharing) is encouraged! They were told to use one computer per group. A question would be posed, pondered...and they would have 40mins to investigate this question, after this time they would have to feedback to the rest of the group there findings...
The results were fantastic! The class at first were not happy at all, they are so used to being given the notes and told what to do. It strikes me as such a shame that learning at this age group has become this, what does this say about education at the moment. Sugata's vision of big questions shaping learning and making wonder and curiosity at the forefront of everything..Is the curriculum that I want to teach.
After the first few moments of discomfort...the class settled to work and a lovely buzz was felt in the room. I was delighted with the classroom climate and the way they worked together. They did think I had gone slightly mad posing this question and then letting them just get on with it, it was clear they started to enjoy the lesson and the presentations they came up with were fantastic. A much deeper level of learning was seen, it was a really enjoyable lesson and the reflections afterwards spoke volumes about SOLE and how much the class had learnt. The group where then able to use the information they gained to produce an essay on the effects of complementary therapy. 
The group post-it noted their thought on the lesson and it was interesting to see comments such as...
"I sort of enjoyed the lesson, it got me thinking" "I really enjoyed the lesson, I learnt loads and it was fun!" 
The comment.... "I sort of enjoyed the lesson" made me really think and after further questioning and much reflection, it is clear that after years of being taught in a certain way, talked at and notes handed out...Sugata's SOLE takes them out of their comfort zone and challenges them. This can only be a good thing....they should be challenged, they should be a little stressed and they should be control of their learning! SOLE rules and its the best way to not only inspire learning but to also encourage independence and collaboration....No matter what the age!!!!!!